Bogguss brings Christmas show to Duluth


Suzy Bogguss. 8 p.m. Dec. 19. $30 advance; $35 at the door. Eddie Owen Presents at Red Clay Music Foundry, 3116 Main St., Duluth. 404-478-2749, eddieowenpresents.com.

She’s scored a Grammy, rocked the country charts, snagged gold and platinum records, and even had a bucket list recording experience with the late Chet Atkins.

But, for more than a decade, country artist Suzy Bogguss has taken to the road with a special holiday show. Dubbed Swingin’ Little Christmas, this year it’s a mixed bag of traditional seasonal songs, hits and tunes from her most recent album.

“It’s an excuse for me to get out and start celebrating ahead of time,” Bogguss said recently by phone. “I also get my Christmas shopping done while I’m on the road, which is pretty handy, too.”

She also talked about pleasing the audience, improvising onstage and tipping her cowboy hat to Merle Haggard. …

On balancing her holiday show between hits and Christmas songs:

“People love to hear songs they know. So, even if they’re not really coming to the show with the Christmas attitude, a lot of times you win them over. If they’re coming to hear the hits, they’re going to hear some of that. … And you’re going to get the traditional Christmas favorites. …We sort of tend to skew it to a less complicated time. It’s a fun, nostalgic show. … And the participation from the audience is always different. … The last time we played the Red Clay Music Foundry … it’s such a great, intimate room that we came off the mics and did ‘Red River Valley’ completely acoustically. The crowd sang along, and I was bawling. It was beautiful.”

On improvising onstage:

“We’re flying by the seat of our pants most of the time. No solo is ever the same. … As a fan, if I’m going to hear Merle Haggard play, I don’t want to hear him play a reggae version of a song. So we try to keep those signature licks in there, but the solos and the freshness of the music is always evolving.”

On getting in the Christmas spirit:

“The music kind of sends you there anyway. There’s something about this time of the year when the light shifts and the skies turn a different color. It just starts feeling Christmasy. … It’s refreshing for me, because I’m playing music I don’t normally play in my regular shows. The songs I’ve been playing for years and years are really muscle memory by now. With the Christmas songs, I have to be thinking more. A lot of Christmas songs have complicated chords and words, and I have to keep on my toes.”

On her most recent album, “Lucky,” made up entirely of Merle Haggard songs:

“I wanted to put a Merle Haggard song on my new record. I wondered if I could get away with doing two Merle songs, because I couldn’t decide which one. My husband finally said, ‘Why don’t you just do all Merle songs?’ I said, ‘I can’t do that. Merle’s still doing Merle just fine.’ … About two weeks later, it kind of dawned on me. I thought, ‘Why the heck not?’ … So I called Merle and told him that I wanted to do it. I told him I wanted to illuminate how much I love his songs. He was totally supportive. Afterward, he called me and told me he loved how we treated the songs. He said he does these songs every night, and he’s always trying to freshen them up. And he said we did a great job doing that. … So that made me really happy. I was walking around my house hyperventilating saying, ‘He likes it! He likes it!’”

On raising promotional funds through Kickstarter:

“I wanted this album to get more national coverage…. So Kickstarter (helped me) get the band around the country to do some kickoff shows and also pay for the promotion team to get the word out. We’re just a little cottage industry. I’ve made my last six records on my own label. I love the concept of people knowing that I’m going to give them something that they’re going to like. They believe in me enough to say, ‘Even though I haven’t heard the record, I’m going to buy it.’ … I want to keep making records, and knowing that people care and want me to make a new record is a luxury that not everyone has. I definitely appreciate it.”